Memorial Day weekend will likely bring a wash of fishermen down to the Kenai Peninsula with school out, predicted temperatures in the 60s and the first king salmon available for river fishing.
Deep Creek, the Ninilchik, Anchor and the Kasilof rivers will be open for king salmon fishing this weekend. The Ninilchik River and Deep Creek will open for the first day of the season Saturday, although the Anchor River has already been open for three days since last weekend. Lakes are ice-free all across the peninsula, thanks to an early summer.
In short, where are people headed this weekend?
“Everywhere,” said Brian Miller, one of the owners of Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna. “It’s pretty much the kickoff of the fishing season down here and across the state. We’re looking for a little increase in business this weekend, fill up the campgrounds, get people out there fishing.”
The season looks to be a hopeful one, with potentially fewer closings on the Kenai River and more king salmon available, Miller said. This weekend, the opening of the lower peninsula rivers will be a boon for the businesses and tourists alike, Miller said.
Fishing in the salt waters, both for salmon and halibut, has been good and is getting better this year, Miller said.
“(The saltwater fishing) from Deep Creek down has been pretty good, for salmon and halibut,” Miller said. “We’ve heard of a 160 pound (halibut), down out of Homer.”
Time will tell about the kings, but for now, the runs are looking rosier than this time last year. The Anchor River’s king count is significantly higher than it was last year and the area management biologists for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are cautiously optimist, said Carol Kerkvliet, the area management biologist for Fish and Game in Homer.
Besides the Anchor River, Fish and Game is expecting a good-size run of king salmon to the Ninilchik River, Kerkvliet said. The greater numbers are attributed to Fish and Game’s stocking efforts in the past few years, she said.
Down in Homer, the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, a saltwater sportfishery adjoining the Homer Spit in Kachemak Bay, is seeing large returns of kings as well, Kerkvliet said.
“It’s a good place to fish with good access,” she said. “If (fishermen) don’t have a boat, they can still fish from shore in the lagoon.”
Out in the saltwater, fishing for halibut should be good from Bluff Point, just north of Homer, north along the coast, Kerkvliet said. King salmon are also returning to Seldovia and along the south side of Kachemak Bay.
The central peninsula is a little quieter — king fishing on the Kenai is closed by emergency order and the trout fishing near the mouth is still slow, said Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist for Fish and Game in Soldotna. Fishing on the Kasilof is picking up, with confirmed reports of king salmon coming in to Fish and Game, he said. The neap tides arriving this weekend may bring more kings into the river as well, Pawluk said. Some reds are arriving as well, which is normal for the Kasilof, he said.
However, this weekend is more about the lower peninsula and the marine recreational fisheries, he said.
“Right now, the only fishing that’s ongoing (in the central peninsula) is the lake fishing,” Pawluk said. “It can be pretty successful. The species that people target are rainbow trout, arctic char … All the other fisheries you could possibly do, like in the Kenai, aren’t very successful right now.”
Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.